Success can become a threat
Client successfully organizes music concerts and live performances witnessed by thousands of people. Their events are combination of light and sound on one hand, of food and drinks offered at merchants’ stalls/bars/restaurants on the other hand.
With success came new challenges. The queues of people wanting to buy drinks and food grew longer and longer, visitors consumed much less than they would consume if they didn’t have to wait. Even worse, the queues threatened to negatively affect visitors’ experience and thus growth in future years. Something had to happen.
Client identified that the main reason for people having to stand in line too long was the payment process at the stalls, a combination of cash transactions as well as credit card payments. They approached Helios to find a solution.
A first idea
Getting rid of cash payment and credit card payments was the essential element of the initial idea. This required not only a convenient cashless and contactless transaction process to place orders faster but also a reliable virtual cash management system and an improvement in connectivity on the event grounds. Obviously such a system would also lend itself to generate statistics which could be used to take timely and good decisions.
Understanding the stake holders
Before developing a solution we analysed the interests of the various stakeholders
As a visitor to an event you want to spend as much time as possible enjoying the show and having a good time around people with the same intention. Selecting and consuming food and drinks certainly is part of the fun. Standing in line, picking coins out of a wallet or waiting for a credit card transaction of someone ahead in the queue to be completed, impacts having a relaxing time andresults in frustration. Getting food and drinks has to be hassle-free and fast.
They simply want to sell as much as possible to happy customers during the time window available between start and end of the event. They want their staff to enjoy their job in order to have them available next time and for them to sell more.
Taking orders has to be a smooth process; payments have to be received fast and safely and have to be easy to manage. Getting rid of cash and credit card handling would therefore be a blessing for them. It would also help them avoid cashier’s mistakes and even cheating.
Critical for them is to know the cashless system also works standalone, e.g. in case the event’s internet connection is overloaded.
They also want to make sure they operate in legality, e.g. when selling goods to minors. Checking ID’s would slow the process even more and is unrealistic in stress situations.
The main interest is in having visitors and merchants having a good experience and returning. Visitors’, Merchant’s and Client’s interest are therefore congruent. In addition Client needs to know what sells best and who sells how much, for future planning but also to have transparency when invoicing merchants for running a stand.
Our Approach to cover stakeholders’ interests
It was clear that developing the solution would be an interesting challenge. We would have to deal with selecting and integrating hardware devices, networks and develop front-end and backend software to offer an easy to deal with, safe process satisfying everybody’s needs.
The software solution includes two major elements:
An App for consumers who can log in safely and in privacy, who can fill an electronic wallet, use the app to pay and also get information on who offers what.
An App for merchants which allows them to take orders, receive payments, provide receipts. At the same time the solution is a source of information on products sold by whom, on reports which make operations more efficient.
Merchants’ personnel such as bartenders work in a stress, sometimes wet environment. Part of the solution is therefore a sturdy mobile device which can be operated even with wet hands and is not damaged when dropped on the floor or into a filled sink. It can be strapped to an arm or a hand and is thus always available, keeping both hands free.
Internet connectivity is always a challenge in such crowded and noisy environments but key for such customer-merchant transaction systems. This is why we didn’t want to bet on a 100 % availability of internet connections and crafted an architecture which supports the all the transactions through the apps in both online & offline mode without any data loss.
.. offering a smooth end to end process
Bartenders and other stall employees work with a water proof, sturdy mobile device which can be operated even with wet hands. They see their stall’s/bars/restaurant’s offering on a screen and can enter orders by using their touch screens. The software prevents taking orders from minors to whom alcoholic beverages or cigarettes may not be sold. The devices can be strapped to an arm or a hand and are thus always available.
Pay the order
We developed a mobile wallet for cashless transaction with the ability to add money to the wallet but also to return the credit not used at the end of the event. Thus consumers won’t find themselves in a situation where they don’t fill their stomach because the wallet looks empty, asking themselves “shall I or shall I not upload cash and then risk losing the unconsumed wallet content”. Consumers who want to know where the money went or who go on events inviting business contacts can print transaction statements and receipts.
Receive the money
We did research into a variety of technologies such as voice files or mobile NFC and decided at the end that QR Codescanning was the most suitable technology to process payments fast and safely. The merchant’s device sends a signal to the visitor’s app, where a QR code is created which is then read by the merchant’s device again which acknowledges receipt to the app. Everything happens automatically in split seconds even over a distance, e.g. between a bartender anda consumer standing in a crowd.
Manage cash and producing accounting statements for merchants
Merchants know at all times what they have sold and can take action, e.g. to reorder merchandise. They also get consolidated statements which they can use for a multitude of purposes, e.g. paying employees or Client, accounting, taxes. This rather exceeds their initial expectations. Client gets transparency fast and can deal with merchants efficiently and free of conflicts.
We were challenged to develop an innovative solution – and finished the project within budget and time. The solution is now being used at events, to the satisfaction of visitors, merchants and of the Client.